What follows are my impressions of the ZenWave SMSG 14 ga loudspeaker cables. They have been in my system for about a week and I've done some critical listening since. Every component review is, in essence, a full system review with that component now in place. For context, I've entered my system and gallery pics on to the Audio Circle database. Every component review also occurs in the context of one's musical material, listening volume and "system presentation/flavoring" (for lack of better words) preferences. My favorite music encompasses acoustic jazz of the '50-'60s, electric jazz of the '60s-'70s and rock of the '60s-'80s. I listen at an average volume of 65-70dB at the sofa. I have biased my system toward very low distortion electrical and passive components, to best hear even the softest accompaniment of ensemble performers and subtlest nuances of layered tracks mixed by the recording engineers. Experience with (too) many evolutions of my system over 15 years has taught me that this approach, at its best, connects me most strongly with the performers and their music. The connection reaches me emotionally, cerebrally and (yes, even at my listen volumes) viscerally depending on the music. That connection, at its strongest, provides one of the most treasured reminders to me of why I am on this rock.
The SMSG cables are truly "high fidelity" components in the old school definition of the term. Some of you may, like me, remember reading that term on record jackets as a kid when you listened on your $25 "all components in one" record plaver. It didn't mean anything to me back then as the heavy needle wore the grooves. For those with real music systems in the '60s I suppose it did, as it does to me now: musical fidelity = faithfulness to the recordings made both in studios and at live venues.
How we and our systems handle the "truth" is quite another matter. In my home, the SMSG cables keep company with (deliberately-chosen) very low distortion components. Room treatments and the Rives PARC limit the room-imposed degradations. My modest listening volume limits amp clipping. This allows me to say that the SMSG cables better my last two loudspeaker cables (Klee Grand Illusion and Kubala Sosna Fascination) in two important respects: preservation of softest inner details and clarity of instruments/voices within the sound field. Most of my music was created in recording studios, and I want to hear what the artists and engineers committed to the lp/cd. Some recordings are small combo "right/left/center" jazz mixes, but others are quite layered with instruments and voices of wide-ranging volumes. Ever get taken by a great accompaniest's contribution to an out front solo or a by beautiful vocal harmony, but struggled to hear it well? I have, and it's not audiophile nitpicking. When I can hear such things clearly, the performance takes on a virtual reality that IS "high fidelity" in the old school definition of the term. It is what most strongly connects me with the music. it allows me to let the whole musical performance wash over me, or to explore what each musician is doing at any given time if i I'm so inclined. On densely-layered tracks I can better understand what the artists and recording engineers were trying to convey.
Examples from my musical library:
- "Psychicemotus", Yusef Lateef - A small combo jazz album that is impeccably-recorded. No instrumental music I own has more heart and soul than this. Several tracks feature very quiet moments and startling dynamics that the SMSG cables handle so well. The acoustic bass work is particularly integral to a few of the quieter tracks, and Mr. Workman's subtle inflections are a joy to hear, as is Yusef's flute playing.
- "Straight Ahead" , Brian Auger's Oblivion Express - A collection of fairly densely-layered electric jazz/rock music, another timeless classic. Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin on Sunset" is interpreted beautifully. Brian's B4 Hammond playing always soothes the mind, but I now hear the synthesizer layers so distinctly. At times two synth tracks float above the organ anchored at center. Good stuff.
- "Free as the Wind", The Crusaders - I tend not to connect with music that contains background strings because, I think, it reminds me of too many syrupy pop tracks that are not for me. A few tracks on this lp use background strings and brass very tastefully, on beautiful musical pieces that couldn't work otherwise. The SMSG cables allow these layers to arrive, stay and depart distinctly and sweetly. Larry Carlton's guitar is very nice on this lp, but a second git (Dean Parks) is also credited. Listening to the track, "Sweet'n Sour", I can now hear both guitarists filling during Wilton Felder's sax solo. The git at right center is further down in the mix, but adds nice fills!
- Call of the West", Wall of Voodoo - Known by many only for the single "Mexican Radio", the lp is filled with beautiful, though melancholy, stories sung within a densely-layered sound field (the "wall", that Stanford Ridgeway tried to create a la Phil Spector). Being electric/synth and a bit compressed, the "wall" has sounded muddy to me in the past. Not so with the SMSG cables in place, in fact, now easy to immerse in even when the going gets complex and out front.
In an already bright system, the SMSG cables may not fit, but only because they preserve so much detail. They are incredibly neutral and certainly don't sugar coat the music - but I've long since learned the futility of trying to cure bad recordings with system changes. Better to approach high fidelity with one's system as best one can, and experience the recordings for what they are.
Hope this helps those considering Dave's cables. I now have a full set of D4 and SMSG cables in my system. They are world class.